Recently by Sarah Gee
I recently had a life-defining moment which I feel I must share.
Flicking through The Guardian (to be fair, dear reader, I was in Leicester and there were no Posts to be found) I came across a picture of the new Doctor Who, Matt Smith, in his newly-unveiled trademark look. Aside from thinking that a bow tie and tweed jacket was the mode du jour for all Open University lecturers of my childhood, rather than time-travellers, my main response was "Is that really news?"
That's not a comment on the increasingly central role that Saturday night television is playing in defining our national culture, but because I'd already seen that image. Three days previously a friend in Cardiff had texted me a pic from her mobile phone and a formal BBC publicity shot was online the next day and highlighted in a Twitter feed.
My reaction to the Doctor's photo was a microcosm of the issue being faced by the Post at present. Printed media is simply unable to keep pace with contemporary news dissemination such as Twitter, websites and blogs.
Much has been written about the recent deaths of Birmingham-born conductor Sir Edward Downes and his wife, Lady Joan, at the Dignitas Clinic in Switzerland. Whatever your personal views on assisted suicide - or death in the manner and the time of your own choosing, as others see it - it's hard not to be moved by the story of a couple married for decades who took the decision that they couldn't live without each other.
For a musician, such as Sir Edward, losing first your sight and then your hearing must be devastating. Concerns about hearing loss have been exorcising the musical world for years now. Although one might think that rock musicians are at greatest risk, players in our finest orchestras suffer just as often. And recent research shows that you are probably at risk too.
For BBC Director-General Mark Thompson, the death of Michael Jackson must have felt like manna from heaven. I'm guessing that Thompson was girding his loins for a merry-go-round of media interviews on Friday, following the release of his expenses claims, and those of his senior colleagues, but fate had other plans and the news agenda set off on a very different direction.
I've had a good look at the claim forms, helpfully posted on the BBC website, for reasons I'll come on to. While some of the expenses seem rather petty (23p for parking? I'd love to know where that car park is), some rather unorthodox (spending best part of ÃÂ£500 on meeting expenses with future colleagues BEFORE he started work at the BBC?) - and others must be the result of some seriously robust negotiations over his contract (paying his annual congestion charge, presumably just so he could drive to work), the majority of the published expenses are pretty damn boring to my mind. Which is exactly why they've been released.
Attending last night's Birmingham Young Professional of the Year event made me profoundly aware of the haves and have nots in our city, on many levels.
Firstly, many congratulations to Suzie Branch of BHMG Marketing on being crowned BYPY 2009. Clearly a popular choice, Suzie's citation highlighted both her skills as a business woman and her willingness to put something back in the community - exactly the combination of skills shown by our illustrious city forefathers such as the Cadburys, Lloyds, Chamberlains and Martineaus.
Birmingham Future, which runs BYPY, has emulated these laudable ambitions themselves by launching The Future Foundation, a charitable fund set up to support education, employment and training projects in Birmingham. Last night the 620 guests at the award dinner watched a short video about some of the work done by the Birmingham Foundation -the community charity which will administrate Future's fund - which showed some really tear-jerking projects and the differences they made. It would be a hard man or woman who wasn't moved.
Although there's been a lot written about the dire economic climate, it was clear that not everyone at the ICC was on their uppers: plenty of generous raffle ticket purchases should see many thousands of pounds more available to help train and support Birmingham's young people in the future.
It may surprise you to know that I lead a double life. By day, I'm a consultant on marketing & fundraising issues to cultural organisations, but by night I'm a volunteer charity trustee. It's a privileged position as it gives me insights to situations as poacher and gamekeeper simultaneously, as many of my clients are registered charities. This is a very tough time to be working in the charity sector, particularly when involved in income generation, as the recession - or for some the fear of the impact of recession created by media reporting - bites.
Fundraising charities broadly receive their income from one of four sources: public sector support, trusts & foundations, companies, and individuals. Although Arts Council England has set up a specific fund to help arts companies through the recession, some other funders - local authorities, regional development agencies, etc. - have found themselves with dramatically-reduced resources and so have been forced to cut services and sector's support of charities has been cut back (or in many cases simply removed) and trusts and foundations have found their endowments somewhat shrunken in the face of Icelandic banking disasters and world economic turmoil. Fundraisers are now hoping that individuals will feel compelled to support projects close to their hearts - but wait, aren't these the very same individuals who are losing, or worried about losing, their jobs right now? That's right, it's the humble taxpayer who foots the bill. However, we are known as a supportive and generous nation when it comes to charity; as the phrase goes, charity begins at home and recent history seems to bear this out.
I really love travelling by train. It's partly because it's more relaxing, and often because I can work on the way to or from meetings, but more than anything it's because I can people-watch.
Or more accurately, people-listen. People are endlessly fascinating, with their foibles and stories and one-sided phonecalls.
It's been a funny old week to be a Brit with a Scottish accent living in England. I've never felt afraid to speak in my own country before, but some of the unprompted comments addressed at me this week, simply for having a Glaswegian accent, have had me thinking that the Act of Union may not exist for much longer.
The Children's Workforce Development Council says that more men need to work in early years education to provide better role models for young children. Family break-ups and the resulting increased instances of single-mother families has helped to create the current problems, and this is further compounded by poor rates of pay and engrained stereotypes which are said to deter men from taking up such jobs. Their survey of more than 1,000 parents of young children in England found that 55% wanted a male childcare worker for their nursery-aged child, rising to two-thirds among single parents, so there's clearly a demand here.
Now, there's a lot of talk about role models, and some of it is tosh - speculation as to whether certain footballers, pop stars or soap actors are suitable role models for our young people following news leaks about their latest affair/nightclub brawl/pre-arranged photo opportunity at the local hospital is somewhat simplistic and naive, and underestimates our young peoples' intelligence. But in the course of a conversation with colleagues recently, I got around to thinking that many people growing up in the 70s and 80s - particularly those from non-white communities - could be forgiven for thinking that 'people like them' (and I use that term advisedly) did not fit into modern society as there was a distinct lack of role models who were anything other than white, middle-aged, middle-class men.
One of the joys of travelling around the country is seeing what makes the headlines in different parts of the UK. Last week I read an article in a Cardiff newspaper about an advert for a local college on the side of the Pontypridd to Cardiff Stagecoach Bus which read "can't find what your looking for". The paper then helpfully pointed out that there was an apostrophe and the letter 'e' missing on the word 'you're'. Thanks for that.
I should confess that I am a fully paid-up member of the Lynne Truss fan club and do get extremely irritated by poor punctuation, grammar and syntax, and careless typos. Recent signs on my local high street offering "Cut price CD's" and better still "Potatoe's" (not in the same shop you understand) had me mentally reaching for the Tippex. My English teacher always told us that the rule about apostrophes was "If in doubt, leave it out". Not foolproof, but certainly less irritating in the days where there was no spellcheck on a computer to point out your foibles (in fact, there were no computers in our school).
The BBC TV programme to be aired this evening on the UK's class system, hosted by John and Pauline Prescott, looks to answer a question that's been plaguing me for a while now: is it possible to have working-class values while living a middle-class lifestyle?
John Prescott claims to be able to spot who attended public school by 'their confidence, the way they speak, and the way they dress'. Not sure what he'd make of me, but I suspect on first meeting that he'd pigeon-hole me as grammar school material. In fact, I had very much a Comprehensive education, albeit within a specialist music school, and I'm very proud of the fact that my granddad at various times in his life was a miner, worked in a Singer sewing machine factory, and ended up as a foreman in a Clyde shipyard. My grannie's best friends were the offspring of Red Clydesider - hardly middle-class credentials.